Illustrator in Residence Diaries: Nous Vous part 3 (Nicholas)

'Bigger! Smaller! Weirder!' In the final part of our Illustrator-in-Residence diaries series, Nous Vous Collective's Nicholas Burrows shares his thoughts on drawing machines...

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  • Illustrator in Residence

It seems like a long time ago that we sat down in a draughty east London cafe half-way through this residency, trying to find a way forward. I have to admit that I felt uneasy at the openness of our proposal as I knew from experience that collaboration is difficult without a shared goal and – although we knew that we wanted to explore our collaborative practice – we were all three pulling in different directions.

Unlike the others I was less interested in ‘research’ as an academic pursuit, as I felt that the rigour and time needed would have made anything else on the residency impossible. I was more keen for any research to come about through doing. But through doing what?

So when, over some very-quickly-cooling coffees, we hit upon the idea of the drawing machine and using it to illustrate Jerome K. Jerome’s novel, I felt as though it all it clicked into place. Here was something that would be a unique body of work, something with many unpredictable elements, a genuine research project, something truly collaborative, and with a simple and clear aim.

Of course, we never would have thought about doing that if we’d not had the first few months of the residency to wander around lost, experimenting, trying things out and doing workshops at House of Illustration. 

I’m keen to continue working with this darned machine, to see what we can do with it. I feel as though we’ve only really scratched the surface. The result of the residency, the exhibition that’s on at House of Illustration at the moment, is us learning to use the machine. Now we’ve mastered the basics, where can it take us? The naivety of the drawings is diminishing, and we’ve lost some of that magic quality where it’s bad but it’s interesting. The last ones we did became a bit too overworked perhaps.

So, what can we do with it next?

I don’t see any commercial application for this, but I think it might end up being the thing that keeps us collaborating. Our practices are crystallising, and it is increasingly difficult to break them open and build up something new.

I’d like to build a portable version so we can go and do some landscape or reportage drawings. I’d like to get other people to use the machine and record it and to try to make some abstract canvases. Bigger machines! Smaller machines! Weirder machines! 

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Nous Vous Collective is House of Illustration's 2016 Illustrator in Residence. See the results of six months spent exploring the nature of collaborative work at our South Gallery exhibition. Nous Vous: Three Men in a Boat is open until 11 June 2017. Our residency programme is generously supported by the Barbara and Philip Denny Trust. 

Would you like to be our next Illustrator in Residence? Applications are now open

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